Depression and the creative and gifted mind

“Night falls fast.
Today is in the past.

Blown from the dark hill hither to
my door
Three flakes, then four
Arrive, then many more.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know my daughter Kaitlyn is dead from taking her own life 4-11-13. I have gone through many things since she has died as evidenced by what I have written in by blog (so far over 200 entries). I suffer horribly because I loved my daughter with all my heart, she was so special, bright, creative and well on her way to a career in medicine. But along with my gut wrenching grief that still continues unabated, I have this need to wonder what went wrong. How can someone so bright that has been so successful all her life, with no signs during her growing up years on into her college years (though I know I was not around her as much once she went to college) of any type of mental illness, no signs of stress, as a matter of fact, she seemed to thrive on it, take her own life? She was an academic superstar and also was successful in medical school.

I’ve come to find out since her death, that many times if someone is very intelligent and depressed they are masters at hiding that depression. I’ve also learned many people that are creative and artistic are prone to depression. I’ve also learned since her death that Kaitlyn did confide in one person (that I know of) of her depression and that she had suicidal ideation in the past. The person she confided in was at the very end of her life, and she told that person that we knew of her depression. We did not. Kaitlyn was always truthful, but I suspect she told this person we knew so it would not raise red flags to them and then they tell us. This person did not know she was suicidal at that time though.

I don’t know what was wrong with Kaitlyn to make her life so “bleak and sad.” Or what made her feel “broken” and lived as though she was in a fog of sadness. She could have major depression, or could have been bipolar. However, in bipolar type one, the manic phase is very apparent and shows itself as the person being very hyperactive, not sleeping, not eating, pressured speech and the like which I have never seen in Kaitlyn and this has never been reported by her friends. Even the one that knew of her depression. Then they experience the other end of the spectrum, severe depression. There is also bipolar type 2 which has a very mild form of mania where it may not even be noticeable as anything other than a very good mood, and then they can plunge into horrendous depression. Or maybe she had major depression, where you have no manic episodes, just periods of horrible depression. These are mood disorders and these have the highest rate of suicide than any other mental illness.

I don’t know what Kaitlyn had, but surely she must have had one or the other due to what she wrote of her sadness in her suicide note. I know that no matter how much I read or ponder or speculate, nothing will bring her back. But I can’t help myself in trying to research and have some type of answers and knowledge about why someone so promising could have suffered so much she no longer wanted to live.

I know a bit about mental illness. I studied it in nursing school. I have depression with a past questionable diagnosis of bipolar type 2 (which I don’t believe is what I have, I think I have depression) and now I am managed by medicine. I also do extensive reading on the subject and have for years, but none of this prepared me what happened to my daughter. I was used to all the signs of depression and knew what they were. I was not of the knowledge that someone that is severely depressed can hide it all their lives. This I am learning since her death.

Along with this is my guilt that depression or any mental illness can be hereditary. I should have asked whether she was depressed. I never asked her that question exactly, but I always asked of her welfare and if she was happy, had friends, etc. I cannot help that I have depression, but my depression was noticeable and I always sought help. But there it is. It came from me. My gosh, she got nothing but her looks from me and just one other thing, depression, of all things. But hers was different than mine. As I sought help, though at one time I didn’t want but a select few to know about it (because we are taught to be ashamed of it in our society by how others act), after a few years I didn’t care who knew. Kaitlyn on the other hand told no one til the very end and never ever sought help. But then Kaitlyn and I were very different. Though I’m far from stupid and can do well in things when I try and find it interesting, I have an average, or maybe a tad higher, intelligence. (I don’t actually know my IQ, I’ve never been tested, but I think myself average). Kaitlyn was brilliant. Everyone expected everything from her. She was successful and everyone expected it from her always after seeing her successful all her life. She must have felt she could show no signs of “weakness” in admitting that she was depressed. But I don’t KNOW. We were close but she never really told me what was going on inside of her. How many people tell their mothers that?

Since Kaitlyn died, I’ve read so many books on trying to survive the suicide of a loved one, ones on grief and all of that. I have found some of them helpful, some of them not, but I STILL don’t know how to survive the death of someone I loved more than life. I still can hardly believe it and her death was the most horrible thing in my life by far. I’ve done the grief counseling which I find not helpful to me (which does not mean I don’t think it helpful for many people). I still see a doctor to maintain my medicine for depression. But nothing helps the kind of depression someone has when they have lost a child. So now, I’m doing more reading on the Scientifics of depression and all the mood disorders. I thought this author very impressive and the book is very good. So I wanted to put some things on my blog that I found very thought provoking in her book. I’m not through reading it yet. But I have found it helpful in learning more about what is known about the mood disorders. (This section I include is readily available on amazon sample page).

However, it also makes me sad. This woman suffers from bipolar disorder which can often be very hard to manage. But she went on to be very successful and is a psychologist and successful author. Maybe if Kaitlyn could have gotten help, she could have still gone on to be a successful person. She would have had to work to stay mentally healthy, but it is possible as seen by the life of this woman. But we will never know this, because now Kaitlyn is gone. It makes me so very sad.

This is from Wikipedia:
“Kay Redfield Jamison (born June 22, 1946) is an American clinical psychologist and writer whose work has centered on bipolar disorder which she has suffered from since her early adulthood. She is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is an Honorary Professor of English at the University of St Andrews.

Jamison moved to California during adolescence and shortly after this move began to struggle with bipolar disorder. Jamison then continued to struggle in college at UCLA wanting to first become a doctor, but with her increasing manic episodes realized she could not withstand the rigorous discipline needed for medical school. She then found her calling in studying psychology. She flourished in this field and was extremely interested in mood disorders. Jamison, despite all her studying, did not realize she was bipolar until three months into her first job as a Professor of UCLA’s Department of Psychology. After finding out, she was put on lithium, a common drug used to contain moods. At times she would refuse treatment because her motor skills became impaired from the medication but after a greater depression decided to continue to take lithium. Jamison even attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on lithium but was unsuccessful. Finally, Jamison realized to not harm herself or her loved ones; she must take her medication for life.”

This is what she has to say about mood disorders in the creative and intelligent mind.
(Note: Bipolar disorder is the same thing as Manic-depressive illness)

“Several Studies have shown that both manic-depressive patients and their relatives are uncommonly creative and academically successful. At least 20 studies have found that highly creative individuals are much more likely than the general population to suffer from depression and manic-depressive illness. Clearly, mood disorders are not required for great accomplishment, and most people who suffer from mood disorders are not particularly accomplished. But the evidence is compelling that the creative are disproportionately affected by these conditions.

Suicide is also more common in highly creative or successful writers, artist, scientists, and businessmen than it is in the general population. Most are related to underlying depression, manic-depression, or alcoholism in combination with these mood disorders.

The toll of suicide on artists, writers, scientists, mathematicians, and others strongly influential on their societies is powerful. The rates of suicide in these groups have been examined in a series of studies conducted by researchers in the US, Britain, Europe, and Asia. Eminent scientists, composers, and top businessmen were, in these investigations, five times more likely to kill themselves than the general population; writers, especially poets, showed considerably higher rates.”
Kay Redfield Jamison “Night Falls Fast”

Kaitlyn was not an alcoholic and only drank socially at times especially since she started running and maintaining a more healthy diet. She had no trouble concentrating or doing well in medical school. She had no trouble sleeping that I ever knew, which leads me to think that maybe she was not bipolar but had major depression. But then again, I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m only a mother that has lost her daughter that she loved so dearly and wanted all good things for her. I’m a mother that looks for answers she may never know and probably will not know. Some may think why I should even wonder, she’s gone, and it does not matter. But it does matter to me. I can’t bring her back, but I will always wonder. What happened to her is such a tragedy how can I help but wonder?

Whatever it was Kaitlyn, I know you were in mental pain. I only know this from your suicide note. I do know that you are no longer in pain. But to have not had this happen, for you to have sought help and feel better, I would have gladly given my life. But that is a choice I did not, and do not have. I will love you and miss you forever.

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About gatito2

My name is Rhonda. I'm a registered nurse, for the last 20 years, that has not been able to work since the day I learned of my daughter's death by suicide 4-12-13. (She actually died 4-11-13 and her body was not found until the 12th) Me and my husband have been married for 32 years and he's a wonderful man. We grieve in different ways. He works, I write. This is my journey through this horrible land of losing a child..
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6 Responses to Depression and the creative and gifted mind

  1. Topaz says:

    Rhonda,

    You said that you’ve been reading lots of books about mental illness. While I was reading this post, I was reminded of a book that I read many years ago. Danielle Steel, the best-selling author, lost her 19-year-old son to suicide. Her book includes how she coped with the pain and what she learned in the process.

    Maybe you have already read it. If not, and if you’re interested, the link is here: http://www.amazon.com/His-Bright-Light-Story-Traina/dp/0385334672

    Like

  2. gatito2 says:

    Thank you Topaz. I have heard of this book but have not read it yet. Thanks for reminding me.

    Like

  3. Topaz says:

    Sure thing. I recommend it.

    Like

  4. I really admire you writing about your daughter. I myself had 2 attempts and I have some Blog Posts that kind of gives some insight as how we feel when the very core of our being is broken and Black, our Spirit does not soar because of the pressed down depression that plagues us endlessly.
    I’m so sorry for your loss. Even though the understanding of the WHY’s may help a little, it’s sad when precious life is lost to suicide, and had not much chance in treatment. May God bless you and Your Family, Author, Catherine Lyon

    Like

  5. gatito2 says:

    Thank you Catherine. I guess searching for whys that I may never know the answer to keeps me from falling completely into despair. There’s much to be learned about mental illness. So much more we don’t know. The brain is so very complex. I miss my daughter so much.

    Like

  6. Pingback: Insightful Quotes on Mood Swings and Bipolar Disorder by Kay Redfield Jamison. | Deo Optimo Maximo

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